Thursday, March 1, 2012

Qatar crosses the Syrian Rubicon: £63m to buy weapons for the rebels

A milestone has been reached in the conflict and, just as with the Libyan uprising last year, Doha is backing regime change

Martin Chulov, Thursday 1 March 2012

"On Monday, Qatar's prime minister declared his state's intent to start helping the Syrian opposition "by all means", including giving them weapons. Two days later, anti-Assad officials received an offer of a $100m (£63m) donation, from their brothers in arms in Libya. Coincidence? Unlikely, if the Libyan revolution is any indicator.

The third act, in what looks very much like the beginning of a concerted push to arm the Syrian insurgency, took place today when the previously gun-shy Syrian National Council formed a military council, which it says will act as a clearing house for anyone offering it arms.

Two probabilities have quickly emerged: the first is that a militarised Syrian National Council is unlikely to be short of suppliers. And, second, Libya is merely a conduit for the $100m, which was at least partly funded by Qatar to get things rolling......

Qatar's remarks this week, as well as Saudi Arabia's claim last Friday that arming the Syrian rebels would be an "excellent idea", clearly shows a new reality. The Rubicon has been crossed. Hopes of resolving Syria's raging insurgency through patience, or dialogue, have evaporated......

Not any more. "We should do whatever necessary to help them, including giving them weapons to defend themselves," said Qatar's prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani, on Monday. "This uprising in Syria now [has lasted] one year. For 10 months, it was peaceful: nobody was carrying weapons, nobody was doing anything. And Bashar continued killing them.

"So I think they're right to defend themselves by weapons, and I think we should help these people by all means."

After urging political recourse and discouraging intervention for so long, the Syrian National Council is now also speaking from a markedly different script....."

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